The Ottawa Senators faced the Tampa Bay Lightning, hoping to break out of a slump. Some would think that a 6-1
dabbing drubbing of the Toronto Maple Leafs might count as slump-busting, but the Leafs haven't been very good. They're in fact in a three-way tie for last in the league. So, although beating them was satisfying, the Sens had work to do to prove the haters wrong.
The first period did a lot of that proving. The Sens came out firing, controlling possession and seemingly catching the Lightning off-guard. Zack Smith had a great period, scoring a beauty of a snipe and drawing an interference penalty while killing a penalty. Cody Ceci also looked good in his bottom-pairing role, with a late pinch drawing another penalty as he drove the net. Shane Prince also showed a couple bursts of speed, and managed to score a goal after an Andrei Vasilevskiy poke-check put it right on his stick.
The only blemish on the period came right after the Prince goal, when J.T. Brown was misplayed in front by Chris Wideman and was allowed to pot his own rebound. Though Ottawa technically lost the possession battle, the period was a lot more even than most would have expected when comparing the seasons of these two teams. I consider that a victory, and it was reflected on the scoreboard.
The second started off great for Ottawa too. After the Bolts killed the first penalty, Ottawa got another one after Nikita Kucherov forgot the holding rule. After a scramble in front, Mark Stone potted the goal under a sprawling Vasilevskiy to restore the two-goal lead. Even when Ottawa took a penalty, a slashing call on Erik Karlsson, was after he raced back to break up a two-on-one. And of course on the PK, Smith drew another penalty by racing up shorthanded. The refs would tell you he was a stride short of getting a penalty shot; I'd tell you the refs were wrong. Either way, it meant the Lightning still had yet to have a full two-minute powerplay in the game.
A little shoving match between Cedric Paquette and Mike Hoffman would lead to some more four-on-four time, and after a tonne of zone time by Pageau-Stone-Wiercioch-Ceci, Stone would fire home his second of the game, a short-side chip that I think Vasilevskiy would've wanted back. And wouldn't you know it, the next powerplay of the game belonged to Ottawa again, with Zack Smith being tripped for the third time in the game. A couple exploding sticks prevented the Sens from doing much either on the powerplay or after it expired, with the second one requiring Karlsson to get on his horse to defend against a breakaway without a stick.
Late in the second, Ryan Dzingel got a spot on the third line (the Zibanejad line) and nearly got himself another assist, but a great save by Vasilevskiy kept his team in it. In the final minute, Alex Chiasson took a tripping penalty and the Bolt would get a couple good looks, but Craig Anderson and his minions stood tall. Ottawa actually had more shots on goal than the opposition in the second period, giving the faint hope that maybe this team was actually rounding into form.
The first half of the third didn't feature much. With more than eight minutes left in the game, Jon Cooper would pull his goalie in the hopes of getting back into the game. Stone got what felt like 100 chances to score the hat-trick, but didn't. Then Kyle Turris got a chance to break his 16-game goal-less streak, but he couldn't score either, and neither one was able to get Karlsson a point. Stone would get another shift, but it was instead his centre Jean-Gabriel Pageau who hit the open net. (He actually did a shoulder check to see if Stone was open, but he realized he wasn't and decided the goal was the better option.) It ended 4:16 (!!) of the Tampa net being empty.
Ryan Dzingel turned on the afterburners and nearly got himself his first NHL goal, but instead had to settle for drawing a penalty as he was tripped on his rush to the net. That would essentially do it for the game, as it meant Ottawa would be on the powerplay until there were 11 seconds left in the game. The powerplay started with an unusual lineup: Ceci-Wideman-Prince-Zibanejad-Chiasson. At one point the D swapped for Methot and Wiercioch, but the Sens couldn't score. That did it for the game, the final score 5-1 for the Sens.
Sens Hero: Zack Smith
Who is this guy? That goal he scored was beautiful, and then he drew three (!!) penalties with his speed. Apparently he works well with Pageau and Stone.
Sens Hero: Mark Stone
He's back, and how. Another three-point night, two goals, and a delight to watch all night. He may just lead another charge to the playoffs.
Honourable Mention: Jean-Gabriel Pageau
Two points for Ottawa's newfound second-line centre. He's earned coach Cameron's trust in a big way. And if Stone-Pageau and Zibanejad-Prince catch on long-term, Ottawa may have struck offensive gold. If not, it's fun while it lasts.
Honourable Mention: Craig Anderson
Two goals allowed in two games. Two goals allowed on 59 shots. That's pretty good.
Sens Zero: Erik Karlsson
No points for the captain? It's the 18th time this season he went a whole game without a point. No way he's Norris material. I mean, Drew Doughty only has 26 games without a point this season, and he kills penalties.